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April 28, 2010

The HSUS Commends Florida for Restricting Trade of Giant Snakes

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Florida legislature for unanimously approving a bill to address the trade in certain dangerous reptiles as pets. S.B. 318, sponsored by Sens. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, passed the Senate Friday, and the identical H.B. 709, co-sponsored by Reps. Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, and Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach, passed the House on Wednesday. The bills prohibit the import into the state, breeding, sale and possession as pets of the large constrictor snakes and Nile monitor lizards considered "reptiles of concern" in Florida. They also increase penalties for wildlife violations.

"The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Florida legislature for acting to protect our environment, public safety and animal welfare," said Jennifer Hobgood, Florida state director for The HSUS, who testified in support of the House bill on Tuesday. "We commend the leadership of the bill sponsors and urge the governor to swiftly sign this measure to prohibit large constrictor snakes as pets in the state."

"S.B. 318 gives the state a comprehensive approach to address our invasive reptile problem," said Sen. Sobel. "We must address already existing problems with species like Burmese pythons and Nile monitors, but we must also be proactive so we can avoid future problems with species like the African rock python and green anaconda."

"Large constrictor snakes and Nile monitor lizards are not appropriate pets," added Rep. Williams. "I appreciate the bipartisan support of my colleagues to help protect Florida's citizens and our treasured native wildlife."

On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gave initial approval to corresponding regulations that classify these animals as conditional species, which also prohibits possession and sale for personal use. In addition to these state actions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comments until May 11 on its proposal to list nine species of large constrictor snakes as injurious, which will prohibit the importation into the United States and interstate commerce of the animals for the exotic pet trade. More information and an opportunity to take action are at humanesociety.org/giantsnakes.

If large constrictor snakes escape or are released into the environment, they can multiply rapidly and prey on native wildlife, depleting vulnerable species. Burmese pythons are widely established in the Everglades, and African rock pythons are also thought to be reproducing in Florida. A comprehensive 2009 report by the U.S. Geological Survey studied nine species of large constrictor snakes and found all nine pose high or medium risk to the environment. None are low risk. 

Facts

  • A 2-year-old Florida girl tragically killed by a Burmese python in 2009 was the fourth person killed by a pet python in the United States since 2006. The others were adults with experience handling reptiles.
  • S.B. 318/H.B. 709 cover the currently listed reptiles of concern: Burmese or Indian python, reticulated python, African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, anaconda, and Nile monitor.
  • S.B. 318/H.B. 709 grandfather currently permitted reptiles for the remainder of the animal's life.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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